International

Hambantota will never be a military port, says Peiris

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris on Thursday dismissed Indian concerns that the Chinese-built deep-sea port at Hambantota was part of Beijing's policy to expand its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean, describing it as a purely commercial venture.

“There is absolutely no military dimension to this at all. This was never conceived of as a military port,” Mr. Peiris told Indian reporters here. He is in Beijing on a five-day visit, during which he is seeking greater Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Peiris stressed that the Indian government “had never raised” questions or concerns about Chinese intentions in constructing the deep-sea port.

“There is simply no military aspect to this port operation altogether. It will never be a military port.”

Sri Lanka, in fact, first offered the port project to India, which was reportedly turned down. The first phase of the port will open this week and Hambantota will receive its first ship on November 19, Mr. Peiris said.

“This is a matter of great satisfaction to us, and also to China, because it is China that made this achievement possible,” he said.

On Friday, Mr. Peiris will hold a closed-door meeting with Chinese companies, during which he is expected to press for greater Chinese investment in infrastructure projects, particularly in the war-ravaged north.

He was, however, careful to stress that Sri Lanka equally valued Indian involvement in infrastructure projects.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2020 3:59:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Hambantota-will-never-be-a-military-port-says-Peiris/article16129319.ece

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